James Baker begins his performance in a narrow spotlight. He is tucked into a ball until Wild Cherry’s “Play That Funky Music” begins. The former Secretary of State uncurls himself slowly, menacingly, and begins to whirl across the stage. The tempo increases as Baker moves into a lindy circle followed by a swing out. The spotlight can barely stay with him. When the song ends, he stops, licks his fingers, and slaps the buttocks of an imaginary partner. The spotlight fades as Baker curls himself into a ball. Brazen.
David Gergen performs a no-nonsense shuffle step to Boxcar Willie’s “Achy Breaky Heart.” Midway through the song, he dabs his nose with an argyle handkerchief. Subtle, delicate, and unforced.
Al Gore’s dance begins with promise as the techno sounds of Devo’s “Big Mess” charge the atmosphere. Gore performs a robotic fall-off-the-log move that consists of a rock-step-stop followed by a kick-back-side-front. He forces a smile, and then repeats the fall-off-the-log move several times. The song ends, the lights fade, and the Vice President is still falling off the log. His performance shows a large degree of artistic intent and a small degree of artistic realization.
George W. Bush strolls onto the stage wearing a lumberjack shirt, leotards, and booties. The fixed look on his face wills the audience to take their seats and quiet their noise. As Dwight Yoakam’s “A Thousand Miles from Nowhere” begins, the governor indulges in an odd combination of tango steps and modern dance poses. His most impressive move—which seems strangely accidental—is best described as a trade-slide double-turn out to open halt. Unsubstantial yet confident.
The senior George Bush interacts with stage props while reading dramatic poetry. First poem, hands clasped beneath chin:p=. Iraq to a war did commit [sway left] Coerced by an evil half wit [sway right] They cried “Holy war!” [stomp and twirl] But saw bombs galore, [carom off angel harp] Retreated, and cried “Holy shhh!” [repeat twirl]
Jeb Bush recuses himself from dancing.
Jesse Jackson is dressed in a smart sailor’s outfit on a well-lit stage. When Boston’s “Don’t Look Back” begins, the former activist thrusts his pelvis slowly at first, and then more rapidly. Soon he thrusts his pelvis while walking in circles. He seems to lose interest. When the song ends, Jesse appears to recognize the audience. He runs off the stage with face in hands. The Reverend will make a comeback.
Katherine Harris jerks her body in spastic fits before the music begins. Then, as the first notes of Enya’s “The Memory of Trees” ring out, Florida’s Secretary of State convulses in opposition. She loses her balance and falls off the stage; there is no return. Too small an act, too large the stage.
William Daley performs the “Soundtrack Medley.” Sporting skin-tight leather and taped feet, the campaign manager spins in circles as he rubs his stomach and thighs to “Maniac.” Water trickles over his body; he wheels and pounds his forearms against a chair. He stops, looks wildly left and right, and then moves into a “stud strut” as “Stayin’ Alive” sweeps across the stage. Quick but effective tributes to “Fame” and “Dirty Dancing” leave the audience agape, but Daley offers the true show-stopper when he waves his hands quickly back and forth across his face, alternately revealing and hiding his anguish à la Elizabeth Berkley in “Showgirls.” Refreshingly unrepressed and provocative.